CW Hawes - Author

The Rocheport Saga-Part 2

Last week I talked a bit about my post-apocalyptic series The Rocheport Saga. I said it was part philosophy, part family saga, part satire, part libertarian thought, part action/adventure novel, and all post-apocalyptic speculation. I also noted that the series is written in epistolary form; that is, as diary entries. I’m very fond of the epistolary format because of the intimate picture it can give us of the main character’s thoughts. Provided of course he or she is a reliable narrator. If not, then we enter a mystery world of trying to figure what is real and what is not. Either way, the epistolary novel is an ideal vehicle.

The Saga is written in story arcs, not unlike television writing, and the first seven novels form the first arc. The arc itself is divided into three parts.

Part I comprises the first two books: The Morning Star and The Shining City. And might be called “Beginnings”. This is where the story begins. Where we learn about Bill Arthur’s dream and how he intends to go about it. His dream of creating a libertarian utopia and of returning to the 21st Century’s technology.

Love Is Little, The Troubled City, and By Leaps and Bounds form Part II. The little community of Rocheport faces enemies from without and within. Our hero, Bill Arthur, is struggling to hold it all together and to do so faces the ugly reality that he will have to betray a few of his most cherished beliefs.

Nevertheless, in By Leaps and Bounds we begin to see that it does indeed look as though the community has turned a corner and will in fact survive.

Part III comprises Freedom’s Freehold and the soon to be published Take to the Sky. Whereas Part II might be titled “Conflict”, Part III could be called “Hope”. The corner has been turned and Bill Arthur feels confident the people of Rocheport will usher in a new era of peace, freedom, and technological advancement.

While The Rocheport Saga is many things, it is all post-apocalyptic speculation. The series is a realistic attempt, I think, at speculating how civilization might come back from a massive catastrophic event — and come back better than it was before the disaster. Therefore there are no zombies or other monsters in the story. Nor are there aliens from space. This is a human story of human dreams and aspirations.

The Marquis de Sade wrote philosophy in the form of pornography. And pornography was a suitable format for him to present his philosophy.

The post-apocalyptic cozy catastrophe, I found, was the most suitable format for me to express my philosophy and social views. Because, at base, the cozy catastrophe is about building a better world.

Which makes it a vehicle by which the author can criticize the current world in which he or she lives and present a model of how the problems can be solved.

S. Fowler Wright used Deluge and Dawn to portray the legal injustices against the labor class and to challenge certain social assumptions. John Wyndham used The Day of the Triffids to hint at the dangers associated with bio-engineering and to point out the dangers of military weapons orbiting the planet. In Earth Abides, George R Stewart points out how a poor black rural working family would be much more capable of surviving, than a white urban couple in New York City. Pointing out how fragile our urban worlds are. Stewart also pointed out that when push comes to shove, we are all equal by having his white protagonist marry a woman who wasn’t white. All that in a book written in the late ‘40s.

The cozy catastrophe is the perfect vehicle for world building. For creating our utopias. I’m surprised that few writers see this and utilize this form. For in the end, all writers are philosophers. Our books are either our ideal worlds or a graphic picture of what we think is wrong with the current world.

And so, in The Rocheport Saga, I present my version of what utopia would be like. No government. Sovereign and self-responsible individuals. Family centered. Social and intellectual freedom. A place where people follow the Golden Rule, respect each other, and help each other. I think it’s a vision that is very appealing and attainable.

As always, comments are welcome! Let me know your thoughts. And until next time, happy reading!

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The 8-Fold Path Wrap-Up

 

The 8-Fold Path for Living Daily in the Silence was designed to promote silence in one’s life, based on the understanding that silence is a benefit to us.

Over the past 14 weeks we’ve looked at the benefits of silence and by using the 8-Fold Path how to achieve silence in our lives every single day.

There are many benefits to silence. We live in a noisy world. Noise pollution is real. Noise pollution damages us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Silence repairs that damage. Silence helps us to return to wholeness.

The natural world, the world in which we as a distinct species arose and in which we lived for many hundreds of thousands of years, does not have the sound of cars and trucks in it, or that of bulldozers, or of aircraft.

The natural world is essentially quiet. The sounds in it are for the most part soft sounds. Thunder boomers are about as loud as the natural world gets, at least for most of us. Those soft sounds are what are natural to our bodies.

A look through history and the reaction to new inventions, especially the noisy ones of the industrial era, is interesting. The steam engine was condemned because it was noisy. The same for the internal combustion engine.  Improved technology made them quieter, especially the steam engine.

However, all one has to do is live next to a busy highway to know that cars and trucks are still very noisy affairs and dirty as well. Even inside our cars the noise level is loud enough to blot out the soft parts of a symphony. Toss in a piston aircraft engine from the local airport or a jet taking off and we’ve moved to a whole new level of noise. And let’s not even mention TV commercials, or such travesties of music as Death Metal.

Instinctively we value peace and quiet. And in our noisy world it is an all too rare phenomenon.

However, by following the 8-Fold Path we can reintroduce at least a modicum of silence into our lives.

I hope the series has been of benefit to you. Comments are always welcome and may you live daily in the silence.

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The Rocheport Saga

 

The Rocheport Saga is part philosophy, part family saga, part satire, part libertarian thought, part action/adventure novel, and all post-apocalyptic speculation. It is my contribution to the cozy catastrophe sub-genre of post-apocalyptic fiction.

The story structure is that of one of my favorite forms: the epistolary novel. The story is told by means of diary entries from a man named Bill Arthur, with occasional diary entries from other characters.

Bill’s diary begins eight months after the cataclysm that kills off most of humanity, the event he simply calls “That Day”. The first sentence he writes is “Today I killed a man and a woman.” He follows that sentence with a brief explanation of what life is like in the new world where everyone is faced with a daily struggle to survive and where some do not make it.

Today I killed a man and a woman. I didn’t want to, but I had no choice. It was me or them. This is how it is now. How it has been for not quite eight months. Everyone on his or her own. The quick or the dead. It wasn’t how it used to be, though. We complained about the old days. Now anyone who remains would do anything to return to even the worst of the old days. But they are gone and will not return for a very long time. Maybe never.

The focus in the cozy catastrophe is on building a better world out of the ashes of the old one. And The Rocheport Saga is no different.

There is no focus on and very little discussion of the disaster. It happened. It was horrible. And now we must move on. The milk is spilt. No sense crying over it.

And Bill Arthur doesn’t. His quest is to preserve as much knowledge as possible and bring the Twenty-first Century back on line as soon as possible.

Of course no story, even one that is essentially “plotless”, can survive without conflict, and Bill has plenty of conflict in Rocheport. All the way from the silly and inane to the deadly serious and life threatening.

Next week we’ll take a look at the books published thus far in the series and provide a synopsis of each.

Until then, happy reading!

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The 8-Fold Path-Step 8: Shikantaza

 

Probably you’ve heard that meditation is good for you. But, as with anything good for you, such as yoga or exercise, who has the time? Right?

To a great degree that’s true. Everything takes up time and there are only so many available hours in a day. And let’s face it, there are a lot more interesting things to do than devoting an hour to yoga, the treadmill, or meditation.

So why on earth is Step 8 of The 8-Fold Path to Living Daily in the Silence meditation? Because

  • Shikantaza is easy to do, and
  • We’re only doing it on our moments of “downtime”.

Shikantaza

First of all, what is shikantaza? It is a form of meditation. Shikantaza begins with the understanding that we are sitting in meditation for its own sake. Not to get something out of it. The sitting itself is the end. It isn’t a means to something else.

The second aspect of shikantaza is the actual practice. You sit for the sake of sitting. You shift your mind into neutral, as it were. Your real focus is to just sit wherever you are sitting. Let your thoughts come and go. Don’t focus on any of them. Just sit and let your mind have free range with thoughts. Watch those thoughts enter and watch them exit when you don’t latch on to them. Just watch them parade across the stage of your mind.

That’s all there is to shikantaza. The whole point of the exercise is to simply sit and do nothing. Sit for the sake of sitting. If you do so long enough, your mind will eventually stop thinking.

When to Practice Shikantaza

I have found, come to the realization actually, that throughout the day I have many moments of downtime. Time where I’m not doing anything in particular. I’m between tasks. Or I just finished one and I don’t want to start another because I’ll shortly be in a meeting, for example.

These little moments of downtime are perfect moments to engage in shikantaza.

Strictly speaking, shikantaza is a sitting meditation. You sit and do it. However, I’ve found I can do it during such activities as walking or biking or driving. The key element is simply to put the mind in neutral.

That meeting? Instead of getting all worked up by focusing on it as you walk to the room from your cube or office, simply practice shikantaza. Put your mind in neutral. If thoughts come, let them come. Just don’t cling to them. Let them leave.

By doing so, you are telling your mind they aren’t important now.

Shikantaza and Silence

So how does the practice of shikantaza help us live daily in the silence?

Practicing shikantaza in our downtime, gives the mind a break so to speak. We are training it to only entertain the thoughts we want it to entertain and when we want to do so. By not focusing on one string of thoughts, we allow our mind to rest. A mind at rest produces inner silence, there’s no chatter in our head, and thereby we experience inner peace.

The more you practice shikantaza the faster your mind will learn to stop throwing up thoughts. Why? Because, as we saw last week, the ego wants center stage. Wants you to chew on something. Shikantaza breaks that cycle of obsessing over our thoughts. Because we simply watch the thoughts come and go. And eventually, when we don’t pay attention to them, or latch onto one of them, the mind stops serving up thoughts. When that happens, we have inner silence.

Next week we’ll wind up our series on The 8-Fold Path to Living Daily in the Silence. Comments are always welcome. And until next time, enjoy the silence!

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A Message of Hope

Post-apocalyptic literature addresses the question: what would life be like if the world as we know it came to an end?

The answer can be dark or light, dystopian or utopian. All depending on how the author wants to play the game. For now, the dark, dystopian answer seems to be what everyone wants. Hence the popularity of all the various iterations of the zombie apocalypse, and such books as The Hunger Games, or such TV series as The 100.

The end of the world as we know it ushered in Hell on Earth. In most cases, this approach to the post-apocalyptic story is survivalist in tone. The main character or characters are in a fight for their lives from beginning to end, with little relief in the middle.

However, the apocalypse, if we survive it and depending on the state of the world if we do, doesn’t have to be a hopeless cesspool. It can be a time of starting over and hopefully making things better. Everything depends ultimately on the author’s Weltanschauung, or worldview.

That is why I like the cozy catastrophe. At the end of the day, it offers us hope. It offers us a vision of the world where our better side triumphs. In the midst of disaster and its aftermath, the best of what makes us human comes to the fore.

The cozy catastrophe may have a battle for survival as part of the storyline, but the main emphasis is on rebuilding the world. And hopefully make it better than it was before the catastrophe.

S. Fowler Wright in Deluge and Dawn, classic cozy catastrophes (you can read for free at http://www.sfw.org), spends little time on the catastrophe and no time on why it happened. The bulk of the story in both books is allotted to how Martin Webster is going to create a new society without the flaws of the old one and how he will deal with the opposition to his leadership.

The ending of his 2-part saga in Dawn is somewhat bittersweet, and yet the world goes on. In spite of everything it goes on and humanity will survive.

In The Day of the Triffids, the book closes on a note of profound hope. Hope that all will become better for the human race, we’ll learn, and that humanity’s mucking around with nature won’t be the end of the human race.

Writers of cozy catastrophes, for the most part, see the catastrophe as wiping the slate clean. Then, if the survivors are up to it, they can build utopia.

In Dean Wesley Smith’s Dust and Kisses, the enterprising main characters are doing alright on their own when they run into each other. And then trouble comes to town. But is it? Again, hope wins the day.

Not all cozy catastrophes have a happy ending. Some are bittersweet. Fowler’s above mentioned Dawn. Earth Abides. Terry Nation’s book Survivors. But generally they are on the whole upbeat.

My own The Rocheport Saga is part philosophy, part family saga, part satire, and part action/adventure. And all about one man’s quest to fulfill his dream for a new world, a better world. In other words, utopia.

Perhaps it’s painting with too broad a brush to say writers of dark dystopian post-apocalyptic books are pessimists and cozy catastrophe writers are optimists. Nevertheless, the unrelenting darkness of something like The Hunger Games trilogy stands in stark contrast to the optimism expressed in The Day of the Triffids. Or even Earth Abides, where the main character doesn’t get what he had hoped for and yet the human race will survive and perhaps end up better than before.

Pessimistic or optimistic. Dystopia or utopia. Which is your preference?

Until next time, happy reading!

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The 8-Fold Path – Step 7: Focus on Now

The Ego is a ruthless attention seeker. It drives our mind down all manner of non-productive paths just to get the attention it craves. And one of the ways it does this is by creating problems for the mind to solve. The solution, in order to promote silence, is to focus on NOW.

Our brain is a complex system and is, in a sense, three brains in one. Paul MacLean put forth the three brain model, which he developed in the early 1950s. His theory of our “three” brains became very popular in the ‘60s and, as with all things, has been modified over time in the light of new knowledge and understanding.

Nevertheless, for our purposes here, his model works just fine. The oldest part of our brain is the “reptilian brain”. The brain stem and cerebellum. It controls vital functions and basic responses: temperature control, fight-or-flight, hunger, defending territory, keeping safe, fear. This part of our brain tends to be rigid and compulsive. Our obsessions originate here.

The next development, evolutionarily speaking, was the limbic brain. This brain first emerged in early mammals. We could call it the “mouse brain”. Or the dog or cat brain if you prefer. This brain records memories of behaviors that produce agreeable or disagreeable results. The emotions are found here. Value judgements originate here, as well; which we often make without being consciously aware we’re making them — and they exert a strong influence on our behavior.

The final brain is the cortex or neocortex. The “primate brain”. This is the brain that differentiates primates from all other mammals and humans from primates. This is where language, abstract thought, imagination, and consciousness originate.

Okay, back to the clever Ego. The Ego is something we make up. It is a construct of who we think we are, or believe we are.

The Ego is not me and it is not you.

The Ego is what creates the emotional drama or firestorms in our lives. Why? Because it wants to be the center of our attention.

The Ego is the culprit that robs us of inner silence and peace of mind. It does this by creating false problems for us to solve. This is easy to do because the “primate brain” is a problem solving machine and is easily tricked by the Ego to solve non-problems: problems that are imaginary and don’t exist. Such as worrying about the future that hasn’t happened yet and obsessing about the past we can do nothing about.

For example, your boss, or spouse, or best friend chews you out for some reason. The Ego goes to work. It draws on your needs, your fears, your sense of fairness — and creates drama so you keep chewing on the event. Criticizing the other and defending yourself. Excusing what you did to set them off. Justifying it, making it “right”.

There’s no silence in your mind, for a raging argument is going on in your head. There’s no peace in your soul, because you feel hurt, wounded, mistreated. You’re a victim. And undeservedly so.

And the Ego is doing its happy dance.

Why? Why does the Ego want drama? Discord? Mental noise?

Think for a moment of a time where you weren’t thinking of anything. Of a time when you were filled with peace. Doesn’t matter how long or short the time was, or what was going on to induce the peace. Just think about it for a moment.

Where was the Ego? It wasn’t around, was it? There was just You and you were enjoying the tranquility. All was right in the world.

The Ego is the “Big I” and it doesn’t want competition for center stage.

The way to deny the Ego, the Big I, center stage and get drama out of your life is to focus on NOW.

Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now was a vital contributor to my current thinking, as was his follow-up book A New Earth. Tolle didn’t come up with anything new. Mystics have been saying the same things for millennia. It was how he said what he said.

Another book that was very influential was Games Zen Masters Play: Writings of R.H. Blyth, edited by Robert Sohl and Audrey Carr. Sadly it’s out of print and used copies tend to be expensive. The book, though, is nonpareil.

Focusing on NOW is the secret weapon to getting the Ego off stage, to getting control of your life back, and to experience ongoing inner silence and peace.

There are many techniques for focusing on NOW and shoving the prima donna Ego off stage. Many books have been written detailing these techniques. Next week I’ll talk about my favorite. Today, I’ll give you a simple suggestion that works very well.

Your boss has just chewed you out. And you think unfairly. He or she didn’t even hear you out! You’re seething with anger. No silence in your mind, is there? The debate is still raging in your head as you go back to your cube or work station.

What do you do? Continue to seethe? Continue to play out the scene in all of its unfairness? You could, although it’s not a good idea. Such raging emotions are bad for you physically and emotionally. They cause high blood pressure, increase stomach acid, give you a headache. The reptile brain is preparing us to flee or fight. We’re keyed up. We can’t think straight. Not a good situation to be in.

If you can, go to a different location. One that is fairly quiet. If you can’t do that, take a bathroom break and sit in a stall. If that’s not possible, that’s okay. Stay in your cube or at your work station. What you do next is what’s most important.

Take a deep breath, hold it a moment, exhale. Repeat until you begin to feel at least some of the anger drift away. Then focus on NOW. The very moment of time you’re in. The quiet around you or the task at hand, whatever your job entails. If your mind drifts, say “no”, and bring it back to NOW.

This practice is no different than what an actor or actress does going on stage. I am waiting in the wings. My cue is coming up. I take a deep breath, empty my mind as I exhale, take another breath and become my character. When I hear my cue, I go out on stage. I’m no longer me. That person and his problems were left in the wings. I’m now the character I’m playing.

It’s the same when your boss chews you out. Or you have a fight with your spouse. Or something happens to upset you. Empty yourself of Ego and let the real You take over. And of course this is something that takes work, until you do it often enough for it to become habit.

As always, questions are welcome. And until next time, take time to silence the Ego and enjoy peace.

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Spice In The Writer’s Life

Today, the Big 5 Publishers want writers to write one thing. If I write private detective murder mysteries, that’s all the Big 5 want me to write. Why? Because they want a known commodity in their stable. Especially if my mysteries sell.

For a very long time now, writers have gotten around that particular publisher restriction by using pen names. Or by going to a different publisher. Although as publishing houses merge, that option is vanishing.

Of course, the independent author/publisher has no such constraints and can publish whatever he or she wants. Although “conventional” wisdom argues that it’s easier to create a “brand” if one publishes only in one genre. I think branding is hogwash, but that’s a subject for another post.

The question is are there multi-genre authors? And the answer is a resounding — YES! In fact, there have pretty much always been multi-genre authors.

Who are some of these writers? Let’s name a few:

H.G. Wells, Georgette Heyer, Iain [M] Banks, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ken Follett, Stephen King, Roald Dahl, Arthur Ransome, Isaac Asimov, Dan Simmons, Anthony Trollope, Doris Lessing, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Nora Roberts/JD Robb, John Updike, Walter Tevis, Jerome Charyn, Ardath Mayhar, Lucius Annaeus Seneca

And the list goes on.

So why do writers write in more than one genre? I can only answer for myself. The reason I write in more than one genre is so that I don’t get bored.

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. It shakes things up, it broadens our horizons, gives us a larger perspective on life.

I have a wide range of interests. My reading reflects that range and I talked about that last week. And so does my writing. Because I basically write what I like to read.

Currently, I write private detective mysteries, post-apocalyptic fiction, dieselpunk alternative history action/adventure, and horror (both psychological and supernatural). In the future, I have plans for writing space opera, historical science fiction novels, cozy mysteries, fantasy, and non-fiction, as well as more of the above.

Of course the rub comes when we talk about marketing, because not all readers are the same. Some just devour romances, or mysteries, or mainstream novels. Others do read more than one genre. So with readers having their expectations and writers wanting to do their thing, what’s the answer?

For myself, I have to write what I’m interested in and what I like to read. I also have to take into consideration that I rapidly lose interest if I have to do the same thing over and over again. I love Tina and Harry in the Justinia Wright mystery series, but if I only wrote about them I’d soon get bored.

And then there is the idea machine. It never stops and is constantly stimulated by everything going on around me. Just the other day, while preparing lunch, I got an idea for a post-apocalyptic novel and a forbidden love novel. That happens all the time. Do I throw those ideas away? No. I save them and often sketch out the idea so I don’t forget it. Because even though at present I have four projects I’m working on, I won’t always have those four projects and I’ll want to start a new one.

Hopefully my readers will like all that I write because they like my style and relate to my worldview. Hopefully. However, I realize a good many will not. And that’s okay.

Another reason writers might write in more than one genre is to capture a larger share of readers. If I write mysteries and horror and science fiction, I have three large reader audiences, as well as those who might cross over. More readers, potentially means more money. And most writers write because they want to tell stories for a living.

Please take a look at my novels page and see the range of what I write. Hopefully, if you haven’t already, you’ll find something to pique your interest. And hopefully in the next year or two some of the other ideas that are in the cooker will be ready to serve up for readers’s enjoyment.

Lawrence Block writes mysteries and thrillers. But over the years he’s begun and ended many series. He says all he can through a character and moves on to a new one. Frustrating as it is for me the reader, it’s what Block has to do to stay fresh in his chosen genre. Which really isn’t any different than a writer who writes in two or more genres or simply switches genres.

Let me know if you read more than one genre and know of authors who write in more than one. Your comments are always welcome! And until next time, happy reading!

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The 8-Fold Path-Step 6: Valuing the Sound of Silence

For the past few weeks we’ve talked about talking. Specifically, how we can limit it or eliminate it altogether. Both our own talking and the talking of others.

Today we’re going to look at Step 6 on The 8-Fold Path for Living Daily in the Silence, which is

Value Silence Over Man-Made Sounds

Most of us willingly bombard ourselves with sound. Whether it be the radio, or the TV, or the iPod, or streaming movies and music, we rarely find ourselves soundless. And that’s not counting things such as the dishwasher, garbage disposal, or vacuum sweeper.

Now we probably don’t want to go too long without running the dishwasher or the vacuum. The making of those sounds we pretty much can’t do without. Although we do have the option of earplugs to dampen or eliminate their noise.

I’m more concerned with the first items I mentioned, which are often used as white noise machines. Noise producers to cancel out unwanted noise. Of course, we often want to listen to music, or stream a TV show or movie. And that’s perfectly alright.

What I’m getting at is more the notion that instead of valuing sound, we value no sound — that is, silence. Instead of always having music playing in the background or the radio or the TV, we shut off the sound producers and revel in the sound of no sound, other than that which naturally occurs.

Why? you may ask. White noise is noise. It’s a bit oxymoronic to make noise to cancel out noise. If you don’t want sound, then eliminate the sound and if you can’t do that, then block it from being heard. Why make more noise to block noise?

Now you may be saying, my white noise is more pleasant to listen to than the noise I don’t want to hear, which is disturbing me. Okay. I get that. But does your white noise totally block out the other noise? If not, then you haven’t really achieved your goal. You’ve only added more noise to your world.

When I was a working stiff, I resorted to headphones and music to cancel out the work noise that I found annoying. The problem was, I still heard the disturbing noise unless I had the volume up to painful levels. Which also meant others could also hear my noise and when they in turn complained about my noise, I had another problem on my hands. In addition, the noise around me came through loud and clear during soft spots in the music or between songs. So, again, the white noise wasn’t a very good solution.

The better solution was the use of earplugs — which eliminated the unwanted noise altogether. I felt much calmer and more at peace when there was no stimulation of any kind. And who doesn’t want more calm and peace in his or her life?

Now I love music and that shows up in a lot of my writing. However, the older I get the more I find I value silence over sound. And as my hearing continues to deteriorate and I have to up the volume to uncomfortable levels just to hear the sonata over the hissing of my tinnitus, I find it much more peaceful to simply eliminate the sound altogether.

Ultimately, if we want peace and tranquility in our lives, we have to promote peace and tranquility. It won’t happen by magic. We have to work for peace and tranquility in our lives. Noise pollution is real and it does cause physical damage as well as create emotional tension and anxiety. And we live in a very noisy world.

Besides, the music we love we’ll appreciate that much more if we aren’t constantly hearing it. Ever play a song or a concerto after not hearing it for some time? Doesn’t it sound fresh and exciting again?

Valuing silence over man-made sounds will bring us greater peace and tranquility — as well as greater appreciation of the sounds we love. A win-win in my book.

Comments are always welcome and until next time spend some time valuing the sound of silence!

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Nothing Beats A Book

Last week I talked about being a multi-genre reader and writer. This week I’d like to focus on the reader part and next week on the writer part.

There are readers who basically read just one genre. Whether it’s romance or mysteries or fantasies or westerns or horror, they are satisfied with the variety their chosen genre provides. And there is a certain comfort in knowing what the book will be like even before you start. There are enough writers out there that one will not exhaust the possibilities in any given genre.

Other readers like variety. They’ll read a horror novel and follow it up with a mystery and then a mainstream novel and will read a biography after that. These readers like to experience the limitless variety that is the reader’s world. And, as they say, variety is the spice of life.

I liken it to the person who wants meat and potatoes for every dinner and the one who wants spaghetti one night, cabbage curry the next, sausage and potatoes on the third, and Lobster Thermidor on the fourth.

We like what we like, after all. It is a reflection of who we are. And whatever one’s choice of reading material, if it works — it works.

From my perspective, when it comes to reading, less does not equal more. For me, more genres equals more pleasure. More adventure!

This partly reflects, I think, my broad range of interests.

After a long period of not reading non-fiction, I’ve started to get back into it. I’ve picked up a biography of a WW II German U-Boat ace. The travelogue of the R34’s flight from England to America and back. I’ve read a book and articles on marketing. I’m getting back into philosophy. I’m partway into a book that is part biography and part history of the zeppelin by Ernst Lehmann. And recently my nephew was showing me his copy of the Encyclopedia of Ships and I know I have to get myself a copy so I can read it in more detail. These books reflect some of the wide range of topics I’m interested in.

On the fiction side of things, I’ve been reading horror and dieselpunk of late, but also some libertarian science fiction, a fantasy mystery, and am currently reading a coming of age literary novel.

And I don’t just read what I like. For example, I’m not partial to YA (young adult) literature. Yet one of my favorite authors is YA writer Daniel Pinkwater and one of my all time favorite books is his Wingman. Last year I read Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’m also not partial to coming of age novels or stories and yet I bought and am currently reading Billy Maddox Takes His Shot by Jay Lemming. And again, am enjoying this read by a new indie author.

Reading is, in my opinion, the best way to explore possibilities. Movies can do that to some degree, but not as well as a book because of how one approaches the two forms. With movies, the viewer is essentially passive. He or she is acted upon by the film.

With a book, the reader must use his or her mind. There is a collaboration between reader and writer that is needed in order to reach an understanding of the text’s meaning. No matter what the author intends, I as reader can’t approach the text with the author’s experiences. I can only do so with mine and therefore what I get out of the book is unique to me.

A friend of mine and I were discussing a poem I’d written. He made the comment, “I don’t think you understand what you’ve written.” He clearly saw something in the poem I didn’t. His experience picked up on the words I’d written and he saw something that I didn’t intend in writing the poem, which came from my experiences.

I don’t think that happens very often when we watch movies due to the passivity of the experience. Movies are passive entertainment and books are active entertainment.

Because of the active engagement, I think reading is the best form of entertainment — and it needn’t be a solo endeavor.

Family reading time is a wonderful way to spend time together. With or without popcorn!

I introduced my daughter to some of my favorite books during family reading time. She shared books with all of us that she wanted to read, such as Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster. An aside here. Jean Webster’s heroines are strong young women in an age when women weren’t expected to be. Her books are very readable today. Webster died in 1916 at 39 years of age in childbirth.

My wife and I read The Hunger Games out loud together. A great way to spend an evening or several evenings.

If you aren’t an avid recreational reader, I encourage you to rediscover books. Add books to family or couple time. Like bread, books really are the staff of life.

Comments are always welcome and until next time — happy reading!

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The 8-Fold Path-Step 5: The Scent of Silence

We live in a world where, at least for most of us, we can’t avoid talking at some point during the day. Over the past several weeks we’ve looked at various ways in which we can limit talking. Today, we’re taking a different approach. We’re going to look at our speech itself. How to infuse our speech with silence.

My speech at all times should be infused with the scent of silence.

Now what do I mean by “the scent of silence”? Namely this, that my words, volume, and tone of voice should foster a sense of quietude, a sense of peace and tranquility such as one gets from silence.

How do we do that? Let’s look at each of the above three factors I mentioned.

Words

We should carefully, thoughtfully choose our words when we speak. Instead of speaking as though we were imitating a machine gun, by simply slowing down and giving ourselves just a few milliseconds to think we can choose words that won’t agitate or upset or goad others. We can instead choose words that are neutral, supportive, and encouraging. Words which promote the effects of silence.

Volume

The volume with which we speak literally speaks volumes. Very often we speak much more loudly than is needed. This may be due to our being excited, or perhaps our own hearing loss, or simply force of habit. Whatever the reason, our voices often overpower others and loud voices are often irritating — especially if the speaker’s words are aggressive or challenging or smack of authority.

I first experienced this scent of silence in my grandparents’s home. They were soft-spoken people. I never heard them raise their voices. In fact, the joke was you could always tell they were having an argument because they were even quieter than usual.

My sister is the same way. Very soft-spoken. I feel badly when I go to her house because I tend to be loud; in part due to my failing hearing, increasing tinnitus, and force of habit. My hearing loss also forces her to speak louder than she normally does. Otherwise, I literally can’t hear her. But even though she speaks louder for my sake, she still scents her speech with silence by means of our next point.

Tone

By tone, I mean the general mood, feel, and manner of speech. Just like in music, where tone conveys the piece’s emotive quality by how it makes us feel and the mood it puts us in, so too with tone of voice. Soft and peaceful tones, instead of harsh and grating ones, convey the spirit of silence.

Just as when we carefully choose our words and consciously control our volume, when we carefully select our tone of voice we can promote silence in ourselves and in the world around us.

Speaking in such a way that reflects the peace brought about in us by the practice of silence can go a very long way towards the creation of an entire environment that is saturated with silence.

Practice

I encourage you during this next week to practice infusing your speech with the scent of silence.

Speak a little slower, choose your words carefully, soften your volume, and make your tone of voice pleasant and joy-filled.

Comments are always welcome and, until next time, enjoy the silence!

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